An airplane of the Spanish low-cost airline Air Europa prepares to land at Barcelona's airport in El Prat de Llobregat on June 6 2016. Picture: AFP/ JOSEP LAGO
An airplane of the Spanish low-cost airline Air Europa prepares to land at Barcelona's airport in El Prat de Llobregat on June 6 2016. Picture: AFP/ JOSEP LAGO

The aviation industry is to launch a campaign it hopes will counter a “flight-shaming” movement that has weakened demand for air travel in Europe, where some travellers are increasingly concerned about their environmental effect.

The industry’s image has been damaged in 2019 by a growing Swedish-born movement led by activists such as teenager Greta Thunberg calling for greater action against climate change, including ditching air travel.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata), a global lobby that represents nearly 300 airlines, is co-ordinating the campaign that will involve industry stakeholders.

“We will launch a very, very big campaign … to explain what we have done, what we are doing, and what we intend to do in the future,” Iata’s head, Alexandre de Juniac, said on Tuesday.

The campaign will try to explain to the public how the industry is reducing its environmental impact, countering what De Juniac said has been “misleading information”. 

Iata is co-ordinating the plan through the Air Transport Action Group, a coalition of industry organisations and companies.

Dented demand

De Juniac did not say when the campaign will launch but said it will be available to stakeholders across the industry including airports and airlines.

Flight-shaming has dented demand in Europe, particularly in northern parts but also in the UK, France and Germany.

“It’s difficult to measure, and beyond European borders we have seen nothing, but it will come,” De Juniac said.

Commercial flying accounts for about 2.5% of global carbon emissions but without concrete steps to alleviate the problem, that number could rise as global air travel increases.

The aviation industry has already cut carbon emissions from each aircraft traveller in half since 1990, largely thanks to more fuel-efficient aircraft, and has a plan to cut net emissions by 2050 and achieve carbon-neutral growth from 2020.

Airlines have warned of the negative effect of the flight-shaming movement and some have criticised the industry for failing to explain itself.

Emirates president Tim Clark said in October the industry had to do a better job addressing the issue, highlighting improvements in technology that have reduced the carbon footprint of aircraft.

Reuters